Monday, February 13, 2012
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, admission $5
Housed in what was once the premises of the country's first licensed pharmacist, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum offers a rollicking look at the health care endured by our ancestors, featuring: leeches, bone saws, chocolate-covered poison pills, drug-laced tampons, and reusable syringes the size of a small jackhammer.
In a cheerier corner near the front there's a soda fountain dating from 1855. Made from black, white and pink marble, it's an appropriately grand monument to the pharmacist's skill at making the medicine go down. Back in the days when most medication was administered as shots of off-puttingly bitter liquid, pharmacists discovered that flavored syrups could be beneficial, whether added directly to the medicine or mixed with fizzy water and served as a palate cleanser.
Customers grew so fond of the sweet drinks that soda fountains flourished and became a standard feature of pharmacies for more than a century. Many early soft drinks contained narcotic ingredients, and many of today's most popular drinks are based on those original recipes. It's a new take on Hippocrates: "Let soft drinks be thy medicine and medicine thy soft drink.
Sadly, you won't get a soda at the Pharmacy Museum--or if you did, it would be far from a health tonic. Their ornate soda fountain still functions, but all of the pipes and spigots are made from lead.